‘Near miss’ shows potential issues with rubber stoppers & DBS style buckle system

A near miss highlights two potential issues with combined rubber stoppers and DBS style buckle systems.

In some designs the termination of the webbing is held within a rubber stopper. If the stopper is removed or comes off, the webbing may be thin enough for the belt/leg-loop to be undone (intentionally or otherwise).  If this does occur, rethreading requires careful attention to the two buckles and in particular their alignment with each other.

Example of a rubber ‘stopper’ termination
Example of a rubber ‘stopper’ termination

In a ‘near miss’ incident, whilst fiddling with their harness a young participant accidentally pulled the rubber bit off and the waist belt became undone. It seems they then rethreaded the buckles trying to match (they thought) those on their leg loops. When the rope was subsequently connected to the waist loop the harness opened up and it became obvious something was wrong, fortunately before they left the ground.

Once undone, for whatever reason, rethreading correctly is slightly complicated by there being two metal buckles, which must be correctly positioned in relation to each other. Unfortunately, at first glance, they can look pretty similar when done up correctly or incorrectly!

safety buckle

This picture shows the buckles correctly arranged, small buckle on the outside, and the belt doubled back as designed.

safety buckle

This picture shows the buckles incorrectly arranged, small buckle on the inside, and although the belt is doubled back it will pull through when loaded.

Issues raised:

  • Are staff aware of this potential problem with some harnesses fitted with DBS type buckles, have any of your harnesses lost their rubber bits?
  • Are those responsible for fitting and checking harnesses aware of the importance of the correct arrangement of the two metal buckles and ensuring that the termination is such that it cannot be pulled through? Some designs use a double or even triple backed and stitch termination which, unless the stitching fails entirely, is simply too big to pull through.
  • Are participants made aware/reminded of the importance of having harnesses checked if they are removed during sessions for any reason?